Sunday, December 1, 2013

Jeffe's Hateful Advice for Crawling Out of a Writer's Slump

Winter arrived with a vengeance to my high desert home last week, making for gorgeously frosty vistas.

The roads cleared just in time for us to hightail it down the Interstate to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Tucson, Arizona. It's been good to be around the blooming flowers and the palm trees. And being with my family is busy - lots of cooking and errands and dinners out and conversations. Totally different than my daily life.

I knew ahead of time that I wouldn't be able to keep up with writing. I never can. And yet I still kidded myself that maybe I'd be able to. After all, what about those early morning hours? There would be down time and all I need is a couple of hours here or there. Then I get here and that imaginary time vaporizes. I have no down time and it's hard to find a quiet space to work in. Even if people are busy doing other things, I still get interrupted and I find it difficult to concentrate. My days take on a totally different rhythm and I'm not the person I usually am.

But visiting my family and taking a few days off is good for me, I know So I try to let it go - and David coaxes me this way, too - to let myself rest for a few days and not worry about my productivity. 

There's a thing, though. 

The thing is this kind of pressure. It's like the water building up behind a dam and the dam is me. I begin to feel the cracks in my skin, because the water has nowhere to go. My floodgates are closed, those big locking wheels dialed shut by another meal, a shopping trip, a party. The strain builds and I worry that the water may overtop the dam, destroying the village below. 

This should be good, right? Because before I left, I was feeling dry and wrung out. So, the build-up of words should make me happy. 

However, for me at least, it doesn't work that way.

This week's topic is the Writer's Slump: How to crawl out of it. 

I wish had some lovely ritual to recommend. Light a candle, say a prayer to the appropriate goddess, something where I offer wise and comforting words about seducing your muse. I confess, I even contemplated making something up like that, so I could put up a jazzy and inspirational post for you all. 

But it would be a lie.

One thing works to get me writing and one thing only.


Yes, yes - I see you out there clutching your skulls, calling me nasty names while you wonder why you've read this far. I totally get that this is non-advice.


To open those pipes again, to let the water flow forth as it should, life-giving instead of -destroying, I have to make myself write. 

And - kill me now - is the process painful.

Putting those first words down after a pause of even two days (for some reason, a one-day break is fine), feels like using all my strength to turn those rusty wheel-locks. I break my nails and strain my ligaments, getting that lock to budge the first notch. With every word I lay down, the wheel turns a titch more - not freely, but grudgingly - then with more give, until the water leaks around the edges of the seal. 

That first day, if I'm lucky, I might get my feet wet. 

The next, I could be wading around - still a lot of effort and not fun, but at least I'm in the water.

Before long, I'm swimming, surfing the wave and feeling all the joy that brings. 

But I only know the one way to get there. 

Write a word.

Then another. 

Drop by drop, we find the ocean.


  1. Yup gotta write to write....of course you said it much more elegantly and with all kinds of spiffy metaphors!!! Enjoyed the post...

  2. Great post. And I should follow your advice.

  3. Up to a few months ago I would have said I had no idea what a writing slump is. But now that I am expierencing one it is nice to know that I am not alone. So I can shut up Donkey singing in my head "Cause I'm all alone, There's no one here beside me"

    1. LOL - on the other hand, Donkey makes a fine sidekick!